Dr. Ajay Sharda discusses Precision Agriculture

(Jim Shroyer) Good morning folks, welcome to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer your host. We’re in luck because we are in the Ag Engineering Department. We have Ajay Sharda, assistant professor in the department going to talk to us about Precision Agriculture. Stay tuned, we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors, see you in a minute.Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at agpromosource.com.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Jim Shroyer your host. With us we have Dr. Ajay Sharda, assistant professor in the Department of Ag Engineering. Ajay, thanks for being on the show and we’re going to be talking about Precision Ag. Tell me; give us a definition and a little short history of Precision Ag. (Dr. Ajay Sharda) Sure Jim. Thank you for having me over. Precision egg from where we started, we wanted to learn more about our fields. We wanted to have better information about our soils, better information about our yields from those areas. We want to be smarter about making decisions on input use and its management. (Jim) More efficiency, better efficiency. (Dr. Ajay) Better efficiency yes, because better efficiency probably will drive to more profitability. That was our goal. I want to have dollars and cents at the end of the year. That is what I earned, that is why I do my business. That was a big goal. If you allow me I would say that it all started around 1995-96 when the GPS and the yield monitor starts to show up in the market. There were some early adopters about that technology who were very excited to try out what those systems are. What they have to offer for our field production system. During the time period of ’95-2000, there were some early adopters looking at what an automated guidance or a GPS, in terms of giving me some idea on where I am on my field and the idea about yields can give me. That is what I call was a first phase of Precision Ag getting started. (Jim) The next phase? (Dr. Ajay) The next phase was what I pulled, and I will really ought to give credit to Terry Griffin, we are working on some paper but that came from that discussion. The second phase is 2000 to 2005 where you start to see technologies like section control. Technologies which started to move from more mechanical to pneumatic control or hydraulic systems starts to show up. Now, I can turn on and off my planter row units or my boom sections I can turn on and off. That was around the time when some individual nozzle control was around to show up. That way I have some information on what I want to do from my yield monitor. I have some assistance on my guidance. Now I can turn things on and off based on where I want to put my input less or more. (Jim) Okay, the next section? (Dr. Ajay) The next section I put as in terms of 2005-2010. Where people start to use variable rate technology. I can give you the rate of fertilizer, pesticides and seeds and so on and so forth. Final stage which I call now is people are using all this information to make smart decision on input use, management and it’s application. (Jim) Now you’re talking about single rows basically. (Dr. Ajay) Right, exactly. (Jim) You’re turning on and off single rows– single booms that sort of thing. (Dr. Ajay) Absolutely. Now we have systems where we can apply product accurately in terms of what that individual nozzle has to do, a single plant or row even has to do. In terms of putting nutrients, chemicals or seeds. (Jim) Ajay we’ve got to take a break. We’ve got a planter behind us we’re going to start talking about it when we get back. We got to take a break. Folks we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm, I’m Jim Shroyer and Dr. Ajay Sharda from Ag Engineering here at K-State. He’s still with us. He didn’t run off during the break, thank you Ajay. Looking at this planter it looks like a sci-fi planter. It’s not anything like the box planters that I’m used to. Ajay tell us what’s new in the way of planters? (Dr. Ajay) Sure Jim. The planters of today’s age are much different than what we used to have before. I would say three to five, six years ago. The major change or one of the significant changes which has happened on the planter is that now we have electric motors driving my seed metering units. Rather than mechanical or hydraulic system with a lot of sprockets, gears, chain drives and warm gears and so on and so forth. (Jim) Those sprockets caused a lot of baldness. People pulling their hairs out on which sprocket goes where. (Dr. Ajay) Absolutely right. If you have to maintain a planter over the season you have to take off tons of sprocket shafts, gears, naming them… (Jim) You’re right – corn, beans… (Dr. Ajay) Exactly. Whether it is corn or beans and all that stuff. (Jim) Milo? (Dr. Ajay) Yes. The one thing I want to point out here is that this is the heart and soul of the entire thing. Which we call an electric motor. Now, this electric motor has a little gearbox inbuilt in it. There’s a very important component, which is called planter control module. (Jim) Plantar control module. (Dr. Ajay) Row control, sorry. Row control module. What this does is that it gets all the information in terms of what is the instantaneous speed of this row unit? It gets what population I have to plant and then it decides what RPM I should spend this metering’s blade to get my right population. (Jim) In that row? (Dr. Ajay) In that row. In that particular row. That is one of the biggest advantages of the newer planting systems we have nowadays. (Jim) Again, it’s called a row– (Dr. Ajay) It’s called row control module. (Jim) Row control module. Okay. (Dr. Ajay) Row control module because it is controlling how that individual row is going to behave. You can also have an added advantage of if it is– we can talk about some turning or multi-hybrid thing. If you want to do multi-hybrid aspect, it will have the aspect of which seed type it has to plant. Then if you have two of those in it, one can switch off and other can come on if you are planting two hybrids side by side. (Jim) I see. Okay. It looks pretty simple. I mean there’s no gaskets. It seems pretty simple. (Dr. Ajay) It is very simple. The only thing is if you see here that I have a motor. I have a shaft and I have a seed-metering plate on top of it. There are a few shims on the back which make sure that the plates don’t rub on the back and my amp pressure on my motor is maintained. It’s running free and without any obstructions from behind. (Jim) This cuts down on your singles, doubles and that sort of thing. (Dr. Ajay) Yes. This decides how much seed has to come on the box. This potion decides how do I want to set on my singulation. Another thing I want to point when you talk about box planter, that these planters are seed-on-demand. There is no seed here. The seed is continuously fed into my seed-metering unit. (Jim) I see. Okay. (Dr. Ajay) Now, I’m maintaining a constant down force as well. There is a constant weight on my row unit. When you have… (Jim) oh, that’s right. Okay. You have a full box of seed versus on demand. (Dr. Ajay) This is a seed on demand. Yes. (Jim) Ajay, we got to take a break. (Dr. Ajay) Okay. (Jim) Folks, we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors. See you in a second.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. Dr. Ajay Sharda from Ag Engineering is with us. Ajay, we talked a little bit about the electric unit here. I know there’s a lot of wires on this planter. What are some of the other functions that we might have or see in this new style of planter? (Dr. Ajay) Yes, Jim. With having these electric motors it provides a lot of scalability and additional functionality, which comes at little to no cost to the producers. (Jim) Scalability. (Dr. Ajay) When I talk about scalability, it means that if I want to add a functionality of contour farming or ton compensation. I only have to add a small piece of software and nothing else. Now, for example in our older planters, when I’m turning on rows or when I’m planting along the contours, all of my row units are planting at same RPM. It means if I’m turning on my left then there are- (Jim) The outside row is planting– going faster than the inside. (Dr. Ajay) Yes. You have spaced out seeds and two tighter– (Jim) Higher populations. (Dr. Ajay) Higher populations. Now what the turn compensation feature does is that it tells each row unit its own speed. Now it can slow down and speed up the RPM of that row unit to maintain the exact spacing and population you need in the field. (Jim) Right so the inside row is going to be planting at 28,000 or whatever and so is the outside. (Dr. Ajay) So is the outside. In other cases you might be planting any– the difference could be 15-20-30,000 populations. (Jim) Right. Right. (Dr. Ajay) Seed population there. That is one very good example on that. Another thing is electric seed meters have given us a functionality that we are now capable of having a multi-hybrid planting system. When I talk on what multi-hybrid means I can have two of these electric row units sitting side by side– (Jim) On the same row. (Dr. Ajay) On the same row. Then I have a seed tender, which have a hybrid A and hybrid B. Now we talk about– I was sending population and seed to this row control module. I have another information on whether I’m planting hybrid A or hybrid B. (Jim) [Laughs] (Dr. Ajay) Now when it knows that I’m planting hybrid B, this row unit is going to shut off. The other row unit is going to start up to plant the hybrid I want. When you talk about some of the older planter systems than mechanical or hydraulic systems, we were not able to do that kind of a thing. We would not have been able to do that kind of a thing. (Jim) Ajay, thank you, we’ve got to take a break. (Dr. Ajay) Thank you. (Jim) Folks we’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors. See you in a minute.

(Jim) Welcome back to That’s My Farm. I’m Jim Shroyer. Dr. Ajay Sharda is still with us. Ajay we’ve talked about the electric motor and some of the other aspects. How about planting speed because I know farmers like to go fast, but they worry about dropping the right number seeds. We’ll talk about depth later, but let’s talk about speed and dropping the seed. (Dr. Ajay) Okay. That’s an excellent question and something I really want to discuss with growers. Now, with electric seed-meters, when generally we do talk about speed most of the people want to still plant at five miles per hour. That is their sweet speed. They don’t want to go faster. They don’t want to go slower in terms of productivity and making sure they can hit the planting windows in all those days. Now with the newer systems we wanted to check two things. One, how good these motors are in terms of spinning– maintaining RPM for a certain population. Second thing we wanted to check was how good they are in terms of singulation because there are two different aspects to it. First thing the motor has to maintain the RPM. Then the metering unit has to singulate and put one seed at a time in terms of what I need. We did a lot of research over the last two or three years. We have a lab here which a Bosch Advanced Planting System Lab. We have some growers we call them– (Jim) On-farm studies. (Dr. Ajay) On-farm studies, yes. With growers in and around Manhattan and what we learn is that these electric motors are very accurate in terms of maintaining the RPM for a certain ground speed. That means that if I am going at a certain speed and I have one x RPMs. They are pretty dead on in terms of what RPM they want to maintain. Ironically, they get more and more better if they go faster than- (Jim) [Laughs] They get more precise. (Dr. Ajay) More precise and a lot of people ask me why. It’s because there is better averaging going on in terms of sampling of how fast I’m going right now. What kind of correction I have to make to get the right RPM. Another thing I want to add is that we slow down and speed up a number of times right in the field. Now these motors can keep up– can step up to the next needed speed in less than half a second. If you decide to go from six to seven and half to eight miles, within half a second it will get to that RPM of the seed plate to start giving you the spacing and the right population. (Jim) Ajay, we got to take a break. (Dr. Ajay) Thank you. Thank you, Jim. (Jim) We’ll be right back after these words from our sponsors.

(Jim) Thanks for joining us in this last segment of That’s My Farm. Dr. Ajay Sharda is with us and we’ve talked a lot about this planter. Last but not least is planting depth. I know we’re talking about speed in the last section. I know from working with grain drills the faster you go they come out of the ground. It’s like skiing. Water skiing. The faster you go you get out of the water. How do you keep from planting too shallow with the higher speeds? (Dr. Ajay) Excellent question Jim. This is one of the most exciting parts of the technology as well. Now most of the planters in the market be it Bosch, John Deere, Kinze, Precision Planting, or Case IH, they have a hydraulic down force control system. What that… (Jim) That’s what that is here? (Dr. Ajay) That is what that is here. This is a hydraulic cylinder here. There is a brain back in the tractor cab, which decides something to do based on soil conditions. Now, what we do in a typical situation is we set our gauge-wheel load pressure here. Okay, it’s reloading. Depending on what depth we want to plant, right? We go a certain distance; we see whether we’re a right depth. I see my gauge-wheel has a certain load or not. That was the one thing. Now what happens is that when you go in the field the soil texture can change. (Jim Shroyer) Across the field? (Dr. Ajay) Across the field soil texture and combination of moisture can change. (Jim) Right. (Dr. Ajay) Which contain the requirement of the opening disc in terms of the load it needs to get to the right depth. (Jim) Right, to cut through the residue– cut through the soil, down to the depth we want to drop the seed. (Dr. Ajay) Absolutely, now when that happens then that is a situation that would be still right if I had the load, which was the leftover load on my gauge wheel. If I do not have enough, then I’m going to start planting shallow. Right, that is not good for seed development—root development or it may not- (Jim) The crown development, right. (Dr. Ajay) It may not just emerge at all. Then there may be situations where this does not need that kind of loading. All the load comes on my gauge wheel because they’re trying to keep the disc not going deep. (Jim) Right. (Dr. Ajay) Then I’ll have excessive sidewall compaction. You know what happens with excessive sidewall compaction. (Jim) Right, the root development issues. (Dr. Ajay) Root development issues and you know what late emergence… (Jim) Okay, I’ll bite. How do you keep from doing that? (Dr. Ajay) Now what the system does is that, when I’ve set my planter for depth, spacing and everything. I set a certain target gauge reload off my gauge wheel. Now, then I need lot more here than it’s going to take off from my gauge wheel. My system will know that “Oh, I do not have the kind of target loading I need on my gauge wheels.” It will use this hydraulic cylinder to put an extra 50-pound, 20-pound or 100-pounds to get onto my row unit. (Jim) Yes. (Dr. Ajay) On the contrary, if this doesn’t need too much. I have a lot more, then it also senses that, “There is too much loading on my gauge wheel.” Then it offloads that weight to maintain the consistent loading on the gauge wheel, consistent depth. Then– yes you rightly pointed, this is my gauge wheel load sensor. Which is giving me a feedback in terms of what is the instantaneous load on my gauge wheel. (Jim) Okay, wow. Well, all right there. (Dr. Ajay) All right there. All automatic and some people do ask me that how quick they are. We have seen where the requirement goes up and down by up to 200 pounds. The change happens in less than a second. Hydraulic systems are much more consistent and faster in terms of response. (Jim) Ajay, I really appreciate you taking time. (Dr. Ajay) Thank you. (Jim) Appreciate a lot. This has been really interesting. Folks thanks for being with us on this episode of That’s My Farm. Don’t forget next week about the same time we are going to have another one for you. See you then.

Closed Captioning Brought to you by Ag Promo Source. Together we grow. Learn more at agpromosource.com.

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